Review: Chanel N°19 Poudré — 4.5 points

The singular composition of Chanel N°19 (1970) has since its conception inspired many fragrances. Silences (Jacomo, 1978), for example, clearly derives its composition from Chanel N°19, but with the shrills of galbanum tempered by a green fruity cassis note. More remotely is Beautiful (Estée Lauder, 1985), which despite its lack of green and mossy notes, also possesses the similarity in terms of its floral and woody notes. Other fragrances that take some elements of Chanel N°19 include Amazone (Hermès, 1974), Ivoire de Balmain (Pierre Balmain, 1980), and So Pretty (Cartier, 1995). And, more recently, the interesting Italian Leather (Memo, 2013), with the addition of green tomato leaf and balsamic leather to orris concrete, easily hearkens to the galbanum-orris-chypre of Chanel N°19.

Yet, there had been no single flanker from its very own house. So, in 2011, perfumer Jacques Polge decided that it was high time the spotlight be given to this gem. Thus, a fitting modern tribute to Chanel N°19 was born.


Forget the tempestuous interplay of fiercely verdant galbanum, rooty orris, and dusky woods: Chanel N°19 Poudré is placid. Instead of the bitter green galbanum, its green note is gentle, like a shade of chartreuse with bright accents of mandarin and neroli. Its fluffy iris that gives the main impression is taken towards the direction of compact powder: musky, powdery, but devoid of retro-violet notes. And, instead of the mossy woods, its dry down is a warm embrace of musk, vanilla, and tonka bean that sweetens and warms the iris. The composition is not difficult, and has just the same sophisticated bearing of its grand dame.

Chanel N°19 Poudré delights in harmony. It is serene and elegant. It may not be a legacy like other compositions before it, but its rich harmonious accord is so easy to wear and admire. It clings to skin much like the scent of compact powder, and its comforting warmth begs one to sniff it again and again. In a way, it is a beautiful ode to the original.



Review: Hermès Hiris — 4.5 points

Pablo Picasso was adept at using either melancholic blue hues or warm shades of red, orange, and earth to create masterpieces characteristic of his Blue and Rose Periods. Similarly, fragrances in styles that are as distinctly opposite as dark woods and pastel florals number amongst the œuvre of perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. Her virtuosity can be seen in both the spiced sandalwood of Idole (Lubin, 2005) or the sublime soliflore of Hiris (Hermès, 1999). And if I had to pick a spring time favourite, it would be this water-colour iris par excellence.

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Despite its delicate character, Hiris is not simplistic. In fact, the composition is polished. It possesses the various facets that afford iris its inimitable complexity. Green and waxy notes in the beginning provide the vegetal impression of orris, which is reminiscent of raw carrots. This is contrasted by a spicy touch of coriander seeds. Then, a hint of orange blossom imparts the subtle floral nuance. These subtleties give Hiris its sophisticated bearing.

At the heart of it is an interplay between powdery and woody notes of iris. Violet overtones emphasise the powdery aspect, whilst cedarwood lends its subtle woody, powdery character. Such curious duality is what makes this raw material beautiful, and it is employed here as the centrepiece of the composition. Then, rounded by musky notes, the combination of powder and woods also acquires a soft, hazy signature.

The sum is a composition that offers a vibrant contrast even with its soothing pastel shade. Her unique treatment of iris is the reason why I find the composition intriguing. And though its diaphanous character may be intended for the wearer’s admiration, it is surprisingly persistent. Having said that, if you have an appreciation for such a style, you will find her other water-colour works just as beautiful an offering. And in the case of Hiris, it is a great example of how a light composition can have yet a strong character.